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One of the reasons I enjoy Thanksgiving is because it is one of the few holidays where we do not have to exchange gifts. We simply get together with family and friends and enjoy the company. Maybe we'll watch a parade on television or perhaps some football, but it's the communal experience which I enjoy the most. For some reason, the preparation of the meal is less of a chore and more of a pleasure, probably because we realize it is designed for many people on a special day.
We're all familiar with the origins of Thanksgiving, that the Pilgrims at Plymouth were thankful to celebrate the harvest at the end of the season. Actually, Thanksgiving traces its roots back to the 1500's in England. It's an old custom, and a good one as we would be remiss if we didn't periodically take time to be thankful for the blessings we have received, be they few or many.
As a child, I was thankful simply to have the clan assemble, which was a rarity as the family was spread out across the country. We would have the meal at my grandmother's house in Buffalo, New York, and I can distinctly remember the aromatic smells emanating from the kitchen which seemed heavenly. I would get the opportunity to talk with my grandparents, great-grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Everyone was in good spirits and helped as required. Occasionally, a squabble would erupt between family members over some innocuous subject which was quickly quelled and forgotten. If my great-grandfather was in high spirits, he would bring out his fiddle and play a tune from a distant era, much to everyone's approval. It was interesting to watch the family dynamics, even at an early age. From time to time, I would sneak into the kitchen to check on progress and steal a nibble of something before getting caught. The room was awash in activity; relish trays being garnished with radishes, green onions, celery, and olives; salads being prepared along with appetizer trays consisting of a variety of dips and delicacies; in addition to the turkey and stuffing, there were mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pearl onions, beets, cranberries, crescent rolls, and at least three different pies for dessert. As a kid, the room was a magical tapestry of smells and delights. It still seems this way to me many years later.
As I got older and moved up the family hierarchy, I learned to assume more responsibility in the preparation of the meal, such as dressing the bird and carving the meat. When we were finally called to the table, we all knew this was a special meal for a special occasion. To me, the Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without grace. As a child, it was always considered an honor to be selected to say the grace before the meal, which should be done with tact and presentation. A lot of kids tend to avoid the limelight of saying grace, but we considered it an essential part of the meal, hence an honor to deliver it on such an auspicious occasion.
As an adult, when I am asked to give the grace, I try to convey the fundamental things that truly affect us, such as:
* That we are thankful of all of the blessings we have, large or small; that we have a roof over our head in these perilous economic times; that we are in good health and remember those who are not.
* That we are thankful to live in a great country, even though we are cognizant it is certainly not perfect. We are thankful for the freedoms we enjoy as defined by the U.S. Constitution.
* That we are thankful for the people who protect and defend our nation; we pray they be protected from harms way.
* That we are thankful that we are all together for this bountiful meal, and to remember those who preceded us as well as those yet to come.
I think the Thanksgiving Prayer written by Samuel F. Pugh covers several of my concerns:
O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Then again, as a Scotsman, I may turn to "The Selkirk Grace":
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
Just don't expect me to pipe in a turkey stuffed with haggis.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Keep the Faith!
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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.